Chapter 6

by John Gavin Nolan

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Astonishingly, within only four months of Monsignor Barry–Doyle’s disheartened and discredited departure from New York, both of the goals he had confided to Bishop Calavassy were achieved. CNEWA had assets in excess of one million dollars, and a mailing list of nearly one million members. It was a spectacular achievement for which Father Edmund Walsh received the credit. The formula now seemed simple. On 23 January 1927, the third Sunday of the month, parish priests throughout the United States took a collection for CNEWA at Mass, and sent the names and addresses of the contributors to New York where they were enrolled in CNEWA membership. The names and addresses were important, more valuable probably than the actual money, for now CNEWA had a constituency of church–going Catholics who could be called upon to support the pope in his efforts for human needs overseas.

The purpose of the collection, it should be emphasized, was humanitarian, not church reunion, and its accomplishment said something about Father Walsh’s doggedness and political finesse. Three years to the month after he had proposed it on returning from the famine in Russia and post–war Germany, the Holy See now had, in CNEWA, a papal relief organization “of worldwide scope and similar to the Red Cross”1 ready for any emergency anywhere.

It is said of Father Edmund Walsh that, had he not entered the Jesuits after graduation at age 16 from Boston College High School, he would likely have applied to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis.2 The fact is he did join a religious community structured on military lines, and twice in his life he dressed in military uniform — first, when as dean at Georgetown University he supervised the training of officers in 32 colleges in New England by appointment of the United States War Department; later, sometimes, as chief of the Papal Relief Mission to Russia, which was affiliated with the American Relief Administration.

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